MUNDANE MYSTERIES: What Do The Colored Exam Room Flags At Your Doctor’s Office Really Mean?

Ever noticed those colored flags on the wall next to the door of the exam room at your doctor’s office? They look a lot like the colored tabs on file folder edges, but they’re different in that, while you can usually write on a slip of paper & insert it inside a file folder tab, those colored exam room flags at your doctor’s office don’t usually say what they’re for. So, what do they mean?

Well, their actual meanings depend on the doctor’s office you’re in. There’s no universal standardized flag color index, so each facility determines their own system. The flags could signify the status of the room (whether it’s occupied or open), what type of care a patient needs, or possibly a combination of the two.

Medical suppliers carry a plethora of variations that offices can order depending on their chosen color-coding system. There are products with just two flags, muted colors, and more. And customizable sets are also available, too. So, what do they mean? Well, one medical supply company, Pyramid Medical Management Services, says: red means the room is empty; green means the patient is waiting on the doctor; yellow means the patient needs a nurse. But that’s just one potential system. Medicus Health, another medical supply company, says: green signifies the room is ready to be occupied; red means the room is currently occupied; blue indicates that a nurse is needed; yellow means the person inside is a fall risk; black means the patient needs an X-ray; and white means the patient needs a physical exam.

But those are just the suggestions of two different companies that make the flags. As for how your doctor’s office actually utilizes them, you’d really have to ask them to know for sure. You could make some educated guesses, though, just based on your own observations while there in the office. For instance, if the nurse were to say, “The doctor will be with you shortly,” and then puts out the green flag, it’d be a safe assumption that green means “the patient is waiting to see the doctor.”

The most reliable way to know what each colored flag means at your doctor’s office, however, would be to simply just ask. It’ll help you learn more about your healthcare provider. But if nothing else, it’d at least be a good conversation starter.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via Twitter (@AndyWebbRadio), or shoot me an email at [email protected].